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California Church Gets Creative With 'Next Step' Summer Ministry

A hand-created, 17-foot tree graces the front of the sanctuary at Rosewood Christian Reformed Church in Bellflower, Calif.

Pastor Bonny Mulder-Behnia says the congregation of Rosewood Christian Reformed Church in Bellflower, Calif., “always looks forward to the stage transformation” at the front of the church's sanctuary every summer. This year it is graced by a 17-foot paper-sculpted tree. 

“We like to ‘wow’ them,” Mulder-Behnia said of the creativity behind the project. It’s a visual focal point for the church's Summer Family Nights, a five-week Wednesday night intergenerational ministry that Rosewood has offered since Mulder-Behnia joined the staff there 21 years ago. 

“Basically it's a ‘next-step’ outreach ministry for people who have come to our large outreach events at Halloween and Easter, and/or to GEMS and Cadets (girls and boys’ faith formation ministries),” Mulder-Behnia said. 

Summer FamilyNights are set up to have all participants together, different from how Rosewood does programming the rest of the year with specific ministries like GEMS, Cadets, youth groups, and adult small groups all on different nights. 

“Summer is the time we all get together for a dinner, intergenerational worship, a drama (presentation), and classes for all ages,” Mulder-Behnia said. She writes the drama scripts and says it’s a favorite feature of Summer Family Nights to see church members perform and act a little silly. The church’s children’s ministry coordinator writes material for the primary grade classes on the same theme and Mulder-Behnia writes the materials for children in fourth to eighth grade. 

Part of the design of Summer Family Nights is to “offer a menu of classes for the adults, so that there are non-threatening options for seekers as well as an in-depth study for mature believers,” she said. 

Many of the participants are newer members and attendees, Mulder-Behnia said. In past years as many as 250 people would enjoy the evening sessions, she said, but Summer Family Nights is in rebuilding mode after the COVID-19 pandemic, “so we anticipate maybe 60 adults and 60 children and youth, plus around 30 volunteers (this year).” 

This year's theme is Tree Tales, featuring Jer. 17:7-8, and it coordinates with a 10-week summer sermon series of the same name. 

Mulder-Behnia said the adult classes at this year’s Summer Family Nights include a group led by two mothers—one age 30 and one age 70—to encourage sharing life experiences and building relationships across generations of women, a class exploring spiritual growth, an overview of the Psalms, a parenting book study, a class that offers healthy recipes, physical exercise and other elements of wellbeing, and a Spanish-language class on the Bible.

The “big tree” will remain in Rosewood’s sanctuary past the period of Summer Family Nights, Mulder-Behnia said, remaining until at least Labor Day. About 15 people, with one couple coordinating the design and construction, contributed to the building of the tree over two evenings and one long Saturday just before the “Tree Tales” sermon series began June 25.

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